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Canadian and Alaskan crude that normally travels to the U.S. West Coast is finding a market in China, where demand is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
The Sofia became the second oil tanker in less than a month to ship Alaskan oil to Qingdao, China, when it left Valdez over the weekend, data compiled by Bloomberg show. At about the same time, the Maria Princess left Vancouver also bound for Qingdao, becoming at least the third oil tanker to sail from British Columbia for China this year. Draft readings indicate the ships were full when they departed.
The vast majority of Alaskan as well as Canadian oil, shipped down the Trans Mountian pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, typically winds up supplying refineries in either Washington state or California.
Recently, those flows have been disrupted amid depressed U.S. West Coast oil consumption caused by state-ordered lockdowns that have kept drivers off the roads during the coronavirus pandemic. By contrast, China, the country that suffered first from the virus, is further along in opening back up with oil demand almost to where it was before lockdowns began earlier in the year.
China’s demand dropped by close to 20% as the country went into lockdown in February. Since then, consumption of gasoline and diesel has rebounded as factories reopen and commuters drive rather than use public transport, according to people with inside knowledge of the country’s energy industry, who asked not to be named because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Last month, the U.S.-flagged Alaskan Navigator sailed from Valdez, signaling China as its destination. Maria Princess follows the tankers Mitera Marigo and Mare Oriens in sailing from Vancouver to China.
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